Sceptic tours aim to put a nail in coffin of city's ghost myths

IT'S not uncommon to walk away from one of Edinburgh's ghost tours with the firm belief that it's all a load of rubbish – but you would not expect the guide to be emphatically agreeing with you.

That, though, is the basis for a new venture by a former ghost tour guide turned sceptic. The city's newest tours will aim to debunk all of Edinburgh's classic supernatural myths.

Theatre and performance artist Alex Pryce is currently putting plans together for the "Ghosts Busted: Skeptics on the Mile" tours starting in July.

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The plan has been given a ringing endorsement by celebrity sceptic Dr Chris French, star of shows such as ITV's Haunted Homes, who believes the tours will be a UK first.

Mr Pryce, 26, who moved to Juniper Green from Leicester nearly two years ago to establish his Chimera Productions theatre company, refused to reveal which tour company he worked for, but said the stories he was churning out night after night left enough of a bad taste in his mouth to prompt him to try something different.

He said: "Some of these tours claim Edinburgh is the most haunted city in Europe, but it doesn't even register as the most haunted in Britain. York has more alleged ghost 'sightings'.

"However, regardless of the number of sightings, once you put these things under the microscope, they just don't stand up to scrutiny.

"When I was out doing the ghost tours, I was presenting stories as fact, when most of the time they had several interpretations and on many occasions had no historical basis whatsoever.

"With a bit of research, I was able to discover that the truth was often more exciting than the myths."

Mr Pryce e-mailed his ideas to Dr French, head of the University of London's Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, who suggested that a good way to gauge the popularity of such tours would be to set up an Edinburgh chapter of the growing Skeptics in the Pub phenomenon.

Dr French said: "Skeptics in the Pub has been going for about ten years in London, but in the last 18 months it's grown from a hard core of around 30 people to a group of over 200 who meet over a pint to hear regular presentations and discuss alternative explanations for supernatural phenomena.

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"There are now Skeptics groups springing up all over England, but to the best of my knowledge no one's tried a walking tour before."

Dr French was among the 30 people who attended the first Edinburgh Skeptics meeting at Nicol Edwards pub on Niddry Street last week – billed as "Edinburgh's most haunted pub".

He believes the popularity of the inaugural meeting is a testament to the potential market for Mr Pryce's tours.

However, Mr Pryce hasn't got the city's ghost tour operators rattling in their ghostly chains just yet.

Ian McKain, manager of Auld Reekie Tours, said: "We're not worried in the slightest! What we do is intended to be tongue-in-cheek and is supposed to be entertaining.

"Alex Pryce has tried to set up tours in the city before with little success – probably because he takes life too seriously."